The Unions and the State

The Unions and the State

THE POLITICS OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, by Colin Crouch. Fontana, 1979. 223 pp. £1.50.

This March Britain’s Labour government fell in a vote of no confidence after months of industrial strife. Ford machinists, truckers, local-authority manual workers, social workers and civil servants had battered and broken the government’s wage guidelines. Five years ago Heath’s Conservative government fell over the union question. Then, the National Union of Mineworkers declared an overtime ban and later a strike, refusing to settle within the government’s Phase III. Heath called an election, confident he could win on the issue, “Who governs, the unions or the government?”

Colin Crouch’s book The Politics of Industrial Relations is about the increasingly explicit challenge that unions have posed to British governments, which to an important degree look after the interests of capital. Unions, which immediately after the Second World War stood on the sidelines of political conflict, today are in the very center of political controversy and seem to determine the rise and fall of governments. Crouch suggests that unions themselves have become more politicized as the strategies of dominant interests for containing the conflict between capital and labor have become more explicitly political.

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